Margin Call – JC Chandor (2011)

I know almost nothing about wall street, and I openly admit it. I have a bit of a mathematical block in my head. Numbers don’t make sense to me. Words do. In fact, it’s a bit like Kelly Bundy disease. Every one thing I learn about English, it pushes one piece of mathematical knowledge out of my head. By the time I’m 50, I may have read the entire Dostoevsky, but I’ll be unable to do 2+2.

I’m kept company by the writer of this article for Exiled Online, who not only knows as little about Wall Street as I do, but cannot, it seems, read fairly basic dramatic structure.

This is the part that drove me the most crazy:

“Its main premise: Sure these Wall Street guys can be a bunch of greedy gamblers, but they didn’t blow up the economy on purpose.”

Uh, yeah, that’s pretty much the opposite of what the films is about. The film is about what happens to the conscience when such huge sums or money are at stake. The conscience simply goes away. The conscience is promoted into feeling good about the evil it is letting go. Zachary Quinto’s character doesn’t stop anything from happening. Stanley Tucci’s character doesn’t stop anything from happening. Neither does Kevin Spacey’s, or Demi Moore’s. They are given bonuses, or simply turn a blind eye, no matter how disturbed a blind eye.

The longest scenes in the film are about how to hoodwink the rest of the firms on Wall Street by flooding the market with the assets that they know to be worthless, selling them to hapless firms, convincing them that they are buying up at a “bargain” to pull the wool over their eyes. Why? Why would they ruin the world like this? $2.7m in bonuses. Don’t feel bad for the hoodwinked firms, though. It’s something any of them would have done themselves if they caught on to the problem first — which is, of course, a pure distillation of evil.

Really, the best scene in the film was the one with Simon Baker and Demi Moore in the elevator talking about what’s about to happen with the cleaning lady standing between them and she has no idea what is about to happen.

Here’s a hint: we’re the cleaning lady.

But is it propaganda? To a certain type of person it it. To the rest of us, not. But to the same kind of person who idolized Gordon Gekko — remember the disgusting scene in Boiler Room where they know his speech by heart? — it might get them drooling a little about the potential bonuses as long as they, too, had an ethical bypass at birth.